Your Freelance Brain

If you’re starting out as a freelance writer, you might feel the need to invest in—among other things—some kind of fancy software that tracks your pitches to magazines. You’ve got to wait six to eight weeks for a response from editors, Writer’s Market says, and know when to follow up via e-mail and when by phone. This is a lot to keep track of, to be sure, so it’s best to buy or download some submission tracking software to keep tabs on all this.

The trouble with this is that it’s utter bullshit.

Nobody sits for six to eight weeks on a query. If an editor likes your idea, you’ll hear about it. If he doesn’t, you won’t. None of this carefully structured follow-up. (This isn’t to say that following up is not important….maybe ONCE. Things get lost. They don’t get lost twice in a row.)

However, I’ve gained a new appreciation for submission tracking software, because it has another use: reminding me what ideas I’ve already sent where. If I have a travel story and I haven’t placed it in Condé Nast Traveler, Budget Travel, or Departures, it’d behoove me to try a fourth place—not accidentally e-mail Budget Travel again.

So, after the jump, a roundup of free or low-cost tracking software, for Mac and for PC. And if you’ve got a favorite that’s not listed, tell us.

Sonar is a free download for Windows PCs. I used to use this, years ago, but I think I broke its primitive brain. The version I once used could not handle more than a few pieces of data at any one time. It seems a new version’s been released recently, so PC users, check it out and tell us what you think!

Sandbagger’s Automated Manuscript Management Software for Windows looks much like Sonar, only a little flashier.

Write Again costs $50 for the “professional” version and $35 for the “standard,” but “light” is donationware. If the screenshots are any indication of the software’s performance, it’s well worth the money. It sounds like an updated Windows version, a Mac version, and an iPhone version are in the works.

Slushomatic looks to have fairly standard features, but offers the bonus of printing cover letters and automatically formatting your manuscripts for you. It’s open source, too, which gives it major nerd points.


Manuscript Tracker is simple but seems, at least upon initial review, to work pretty well. Wish it had more features, but if you’re looking for a desktop client and you’re not running Windows, this is it.


Luminary Writer’s Database is a free online service, and is what I’m using now. Isn’t too robust, but definitely has the minimum firepower required to git’r’done.

Writer’s Market Online includes a submission tracker with a subscription to their market listings, but we wouldn’t recommend them…their online software is nothing if not buggy.